Long COVID: The Long-Term Effects on Multiple Organs

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Long COVID can cause long-term damage to multiple organs, study finds

A third of long COVID patients sustained damage to multiple organs five months after infection, a study has found.


Long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), is a condition where individuals experience persistent symptoms and complications even after recovering from the initial COVID-19 infection. While the acute phase of the disease primarily affects the respiratory system, emerging research suggests that long COVID can cause long-term damage to multiple organs. A recent study has shed light on the extent and implications of these organ injuries, highlighting the need for further understanding and support for those affected. In this article, we will explore the findings of the study and delve into the impact of long COVID on various organs.


The Study: Scans Reveal Organ Injuries in Long COVID Patients

The study, conducted by a team of researchers, involved the analysis of scans from long COVID patients who had been treated in hospitals. The scans revealed that a third of these patients had sustained damage to multiple organs even months after their initial infection. Comparisons with a non-COVID control group showed significantly higher rates of organ injuries in long COVID patients, particularly in the lungs, brain, and kidneys.


Lung Injuries: The Most Pronounced Effect

Among the organs affected, the lungs showed the most pronounced impact. The study found that lung injuries were almost 14 times higher in long COVID patients compared to the control group. This suggests that the respiratory system bears a substantial burden in long COVID cases, leading to persistent symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness.


Brain and Kidney Injuries: A Concerning Discovery

In addition to lung injuries, the study also revealed abnormalities in the brain and kidneys of long COVID patients. Brain-related injuries were observed three times more frequently in long COVID patients, indicating potential neurological complications. Similarly, abnormalities in kidney function were found to be twice as common in long COVID patients. These findings emphasize the need for comprehensive monitoring and care for individuals experiencing long COVID symptoms.


Factors Influencing Organ Injuries

The severity of the initial COVID-19 infection, age, and pre-existing health conditions were identified as factors that influenced the extent of organ injuries in long COVID patients. Patients who had more than two organs affected were found to be four times more likely to report severe mental and physical impairment. This highlights the wide-ranging impact of long COVID, not only on physical health but also on mental well-being.


Real-Life Experiences: Stories of Organ Damage

To gain a deeper understanding of the long-term effects of COVID-19 on multiple organs, it is crucial to listen to the experiences of those directly affected. Tanysha Dissanayake, a former tennis prodigy, was forced into retirement due to long COVID. She shared her struggles with multiple organ complications, including issues with her heart, liver, lungs, and uterus. Tanysha’s story is just one example of the many individuals grappling with the wide-ranging effects of long COVID.


Implications and Recommendations

The findings of this study have significant implications for the understanding and management of long COVID. It is now abundantly clear that COVID-19 is not solely a respiratory virus but can cause long-term harm to various organs and systems in the body. Consequently, there is an urgent need for longer-term multidisciplinary follow-up services that focus on both pulmonary and extrapulmonary health, including mental well-being.

Dr. Margaret O’Hara, a founding trustee of Long COVID Support, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the long-term damage caused by COVID-19. She asserts that COVID-19 affects a large number of organs and systems, even in individuals who were not hospitalized during the acute phase of the infection. This understanding underscores the need for comprehensive support and healthcare services for all those affected by long COVID.

Long COVID poses a significant challenge to individuals who have recovered from the initial COVID-19 infection. The study discussed in this article highlights the long-term damage that can occur in multiple organs, with the lungs, brain, and kidneys being particularly affected. The severity of the initial infection, age, and pre-existing health conditions contribute to the extent of organ injuries. To address the implications of long COVID, it is crucial to provide comprehensive follow-up services and support for those experiencing persistent symptoms. By gaining a deeper understanding of the long-term effects of COVID-19, we can better care for, and support individuals affected by this complex condition.